The new approach to installing solar

Overcoming the initial cost of installing solar panels remains a massive challenge; maybe this is the solution
23 May 2022

Interview with 

Andreas Thorsheim, Otovo


Why are we not using all the rooftops available to us already? CEO of Otovo, Andreas Thorsheim, believes that in the not too distant future solar will make up the majority of our household's electrical consumption. Julia Ravey hears how...

Andreas - Otovo is a company that aims to be the easiest and most affordable way to get solar panels on your roof. Otovo is a webpage where you can input your address and get a quote instantly. Then you can just buy the solar panels and maybe a battery for your home online, just as easy as you buy a shirt or a pair of shoes.

Julia - And do you have a way to help people overcome that initial upfront cost of installing solar panels on their house? Because that is pretty expensive.

Andreas - Yes, it is. For the typical household, they'll probably find a five thousand pound investment daunting. And that's why we came up with a product where people can pay a monthly bill. We offer them the opportunity to lease the panels. And the way that works is that you don't have to put up the money up front, but you'd rather pay a monthly bill. And in that way you can save as much as 20% on your electricity bill. A typical electricity bill might be £110 per month. And after you get these solar panels on your roof, you'll pay less than 50 on your electricity bill. You'll have to pay the rental for 40 to 45, and the rest is saving. £20 a month works immediately. So, that's been very popular in Spain and in Scandinavia, we've had this product for a couple of years now and excited to launch this in the UK this summer.

Julia - Yeah, it sounds like the technology is there and the economics are in place for household solar to really kick on. So why do such a minority of buildings in this country, in the UK have solar panels on their roofs?

Andreas - I think it's maybe mostly a question of people not being aware of how great solar panel power is. We started Otovo in Norway in 2016, and it's certainly not the easiest place to make money from solar energy since we have a long dark winter and quite inexpensive traditional energy, but what has happened to the cost of solar energy since we started is just remarkable. We've halved the cost of solar installations in Norway in the last five years alone. And we believe we're going to be able to do that in the UK too. And, we can now save money for people pretty much anywhere in the world by providing solar panels and maybe batteries for their home.

Julia - The EU has just release a plan to make it mandatory for all new buildings to have solar panels installed, during their construction. Are you surprised it's taken an energy crisis, like the one we're experiencing now for this initiative to happen?

Andreas - Yes, I think it's a little late, but we're happy that they're doing it now. We've seen over the last years, both in the UK and in Europe where policy support for solar panels, really increasing and in the UK, you don't pay value added tax for solar installations. And that's a recent piece of policy that just came out here in the UK. So, policy support is there and I think it'll make solar power much more commonplace in the UK in years to come.

Julia - Yeah, it does seem to make a lot of sense really if we're putting buildings up and we want to be more energy friendly to have that in the policy, but one of the things that's really cool about solar is how diverse it is. We can have these enormous solar farms powering thousands of homes via the grid, and then a handful of PV panels on a house's roof that provides the energy for a single family out in a remote part of the countryside. What do you see as the future of solar in the coming years and decades?

Andreas - Well, I think over the next generation, we're gonna see panels come up on pretty much every single roof. And I think maybe a third of the electricity that we consume in households and in commercial buildings will be produced where the electricity is consumed, and the rest will come from nuclear plants and hydro power and wind power, produced centrally. But as much as a third of the energy can be produced at the edges of the grid, it's almost like what happened when computers went from mainframe and you just had computers in universities and now we have them everywhere in the shape of laptops and mobile phones. I think we'll see some something resembling that happening to energy.


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